Rodney Campbell's Blog

Archive for November, 2014

Ghostly Trails…

by on Nov.17, 2014, under Life, Photography

At Waverley Cemetery with good friend Gerry for an evening of star trails. A pretty good night for it with no moon and very little cloud.

First of all we found this spectacular marble structure with no competitive elements behind or around it which was ideally situated for the type of shot we wanted.

We started as usual by setting up and getting our composition right before doing some light painting of the foreground (which we’d later use to blend into the final shot with the stacked star trails images).

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Ghostly Trails

Ghostly Trails

NIKON D600 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 61 sec at f/3.5, ISO 500 x 136 Frames

This is a massive cemetery right on the ocean cliffs at Clovelly in Sydney’s eastern suburbs so a ghostly feel was the order of the day.

We tried a number of EL wire based images for that ghostly fire type look along with some different coloured torch light on the various elements in the cemetery. Even tried a few with strong backlight firing the flash from behind and below the structure.

Just over an hour or so later we’d had enough and decided to start our star trails sequence at 9:20PM.

Using a new lens which allowed me to shoot with a wider aperture than my 16-35/4 I was able to drop the ISO a little and shoot this time at 60 seconds @ f/3.5 and ISO 500 for the individual frames.

We decided on about two (2) hours worth of shots and let the intervalometer run… it was pizza time.

Unlike our recent trip to Malabar we’d chosen a much better location this time with the car parked just a few hundred metres away and Clovelly nearby we ordered pizza (strangely we didn’t bother asking for delivery to the middle of a cemetery – go figure! :)). I drove over and picked up our order and was back in short time and we were enjoying a well earned meal.

The real upside of the pizza is not so much the food (and to be honest it was actually quite good, the garlic bread was ordinary but the pizzas were very good) – it’s the fact that this whole exercise basically chews up an hour of the waiting 🙂

Almost 11:40PM (about 2 hours and 20 mins) and 136 frames later I was done… time to bail…

You know what the biggest pain of shooting star trails in Sydney facing east over the ocean is – not the light pollution – it’s having to manually clone out the plane trails from hundreds of individual images. Once the curfew kicked in at 11PM however things were good (unfortunately 1hr and 40mins were before the curfew).

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Pre Star Trails Fishing…

by on Nov.15, 2014, under Life, Photography

I joined good friend Gerry for yet another Sydney star trails attempt – we’re perfecting our ability to shoot good star trails in a light polluted city environment.

We’d decided this time to try Waverley Cemetery which has absolutely epic views over the ocean – but more on that in the next post 🙂

As we’d arrived early (late afternoon, before sunset) to rece the cemetery to look for some good candidates for later light painting and star trails we figured we’d head out to somewhere nearby on the coast to shoot sunset.

Fishing for Luck

Fishing for Luck

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 44 mm, 93 sec at f/11, ISO 100

So here we are at nearby Clovelly and as is usually the case anywhere along our rocky shores at the start and end of each day we have people fishing. More often than not we see some crazy rock fisherpeople right out on the rocks getting washed over by the incoming waves – apparently the fishing is good in the churn. I’m not so sure they’d enjoy it as much once they’re swept into the chasm.

As is my usual bent I oped for some long exposures but I still wanted my fishing people to still be there. They’re not going to stay perfectly still for my one to two minute frames (I know – completely unreasonable right!) so I take some long exposure images (with the Lee LittleStopper in this case) and also take some much shorter ones without and blend in post.

In this case I’ve found a couple 1 to 2 second exposures I can use for the individual people fishing and I’ve blended them into the 93 second long exposure for the final result.

Full disclosure – none of the fishermen were harmed in the production of this image and they caught some pretty large and nice looking fish whilst we were there.

Moving on the sun was setting rapidly in the west behind us and we actually got some nice colour in the sky that way (which I couldn’t end up using even though I chased it around the corner to try).

I did find there really interesting rippled rocks and once the sun had set and we were into twilight I did some non little or big stoppered long exposures just using a light grad and the polariser. This one a two minute job at ISO 200 juxtaposing the very rippled ricks against the very non rippled water.



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 124 sec at f/11, ISO 200

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Star Trails Processing Workflow…

by on Nov.13, 2014, under Life, Photography

My basic star trails post processing workflow is:

– adjust all the source images in Lightroom with a common set of synchronised basic adjustments (lens correction, white balance, some basic panel adjustments and maybe some tone curve)
– open all the images as layers in Photoshop from Lightroom
– manually fix any images which need fixing (e.g. cloning out plane, boat, etc trails from specific source frames)
– select all the layers and change the blend mode to Lighten
– if all looks good flatten the image and save

– at this stage I’m not normally worried about what the foreground in this image looks like as I’m going to blend in the foreground from some of the other shots later

– open the image again in Photoshop and
– convert the image to a smart object
– apply Camera RAW as a filter and adjust the image to taste – only really caring about the results to the sky and star trails
– adjust the colour temp if required – often want to make it a little bluer
– boost the highlights and whites
– boost the blacks
– add some clarity and saturation if required
– run a Luminosity mask creation action
– go to the Alpha channels and select one of the masks which essentially selects the star trails (some form of lights)
– create a curves layer with this mask and adjust to boost the highlights a little more
– go to the Alpha channels and select one of the masks which essentially selects everything which isn’t the star trails (inverse of above)
– create a curves layer with this mask and adjust to bring down the dark areas a little (to darken the background sky)

– now open up the one or more foreground interest (often light painted) source images in photoshop and drag them one by one into the other star trails document so they appear as layers above the background trails image
– add an inverse (black) mask to each of those layers so they don’t appear (option click the layer mask icon)
– for the foreground I mostly want to use I might use the gradient tool (with black to white transition) to quickly paint in a large section of one of the source foreground images
– for each of the foreground layers I can now paint with a white brush on the mask with a low opacity/low flow brush and my Wacom pressure sensitive pen/tablet to expose the areas of those layers I want to show through creating the final blended image

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Northern Rise…

by on Nov.10, 2014, under Life, Photography

Our last morning on our long weekend away staying near Coffs Harbour up on the mid north coast of New South Wales.

So my last chance to catch my favourite time of the day to photograph – twilight and sunrise.

My good wife had actually suggested I head to this location the day before (saying that there were all these green mossy covered rocks all along the beach) so how could I resist.

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Unfortunately I knew the tide would be high around sunrise so I was expecting most of the good green covered rocks would actually be underwater – which proved to be the case. Still it’s always good to be out at this time of day – it’s so peaceful when it’s so still and calm – and the colours of the light are so subtle and beautiful.

5:43AM and way before sunrise. This shot actually looks quite good in colour but to me I was drawn to doing a monochrome conversion so…



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 52 sec at f/8, ISO 100

One of the few exposed rocks with any hint of green on it :). 3 Stop GND over the sky and some light painting of the foreground rocks to bring them out of the darkness.

Dawns Delight

Dawns Delight

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 117 sec at f/11, ISO 100

I spied this lone figure way up the northern end of the beach and out on a rock in the ocean looking out to sea. He was actually standing silhouetted against the sky when I first saw him and I was hoping he’d stay still that way whilst I changed to a long lens to capture the scene with those subtle aerial layers of the mountains behind. Unfortunately by the time I’d switched over he’d sat down but still I’m drawn to his tiny presence in this vast low contrast expanse. It’s just a couple minutes till sunrise and he’s waiting and watching the slow rise over the horizon.

Watching & Waiting

Watching & Waiting

NIKON D600 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 155 mm, 1/160 sec at f/4.8, ISO 640

and finally when I’d walked up and past the northern most end of the beach and around to the next beach entrance I’ve got two final shots of the morning. Almost a before and after. The first shot is just with the Lee 0.9 grad and Heliopan CPL and was taken just moments after sunrise.

Landing on Alien Soil

Landing on Alien Soil

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 1/2 sec at f/11, ISO 100

and the second just four minutes later but the sun had well and truly risen and burned off the mist and low cloud. I added the Lee LittleStopper for some daytime long exposure goodness.

Stopping Aliens

Stopping Aliens

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 62.00 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Notice how the shadows are more defined after we’ve started loosing the soft light and the completely different colouring and feel even though I’ve set the white balance for both shots manually to Daylight. The transition that occurs with the light, the colour, the intensity, the whole look and feel over just a few minutes at the transition of the day makes an enormous difference to your end results.

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Feathered Friends…

by on Nov.08, 2014, under Life, Photography

So… more Sculpture By The Sea… this time it’s “Our Memory in Your Place” by Byeong Doo Moon from South Korea (and for a measly 128 thousand dollars it could be yours).

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Some lovely metal feathered plumage fanned out waiting to catch the first rays of sunrise. Fifteen minutes to go now…

Feathered Friends

Feathered Friends

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm, 4 sec at f/11, ISO 100

I then went for a wander around the rest of Tamarama beach to explore the other sculptures there and half an hour later when I came back Ana and Alison were deep in orb country 🙂

With the sun up but shrouded in orange fog I gave our feathered friend a try with their orbs and the trusty 24-70 I had mounted at the time.

Tripple Your Luck

Tripple Your Luck

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/80 sec at f/11, ISO 180

Wing Span

Wing Span

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 52 mm, 1/160 sec at f/8, ISO 100

The following is one of those rare times for me, it’s an unusual shot. I’m scouting out a scene and picturing in my mind how I think it’s going to look after I setup and make the shot but the end result turns out to be an unexpected surprise and somewhat completely different to how I’d anticipated.

I’m usually pretty good at estimating what the effect will be when I setup the camera in certain ways. In this case the sun was up and it was quite bright by now. I liked the look of this green rock out at the waters edge with the waves rushing over it with each forward push. I wanted to get a shot where it was pretty isolated in the sand and water and lengthen the exposure with some heavy neutral density filters to simplify the water and sky.

I wasn’t looking to get the sun in the frame but I was somewhat forced to point it’s way to exclude some of the distracting rock on the right side. I loaded up the Lee Little Stopper and got things going. What I hadn’t anticipated was the effect of the mysterious foggy cloud over the sun and the horizon and the sort of mist hanging about in the air this morning.

The exposure didn’t end up being as long as I was expecting – a mere 1.3 seconds and not the tens of seconds I thought might happen (I’d need the BigStopper for that). Plus the results of all this fog made for a really dreamy look – it’s not my usual style but it’s growing on me…



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 31 mm, 1.30 sec at f/11, ISO 100


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